Musical ‘The Last Five Years’ debuts at Studio Grand Central • St Pete Catalyst

by Jason Robert Brown The last five years is the story of a relationship: One man, one woman, from euphoric highs to tearful lows. From the first days, full of promise, until the end, when there is nothing more to settle.

It’s also a musical, so instead of he said/she said, we get he sang/she sang. And the two characters, Jamie and Cathy, begin the play at opposite ends of the titular timeline. Their memories come together in the middle of the show.

The last five years is on stage Thursday through Sunday, for four performances, at Studio Grand Central in St. Petersburg, the relatively new black box theater on 1st Avenue S. There is a four member band on stage.

“I knew I wanted to do a musical here,” says Anthony Gervais, who plays Jamie. “They hadn’t and the space is super intimate and exciting.”

Gervais co-stars (and co-directs) with Sophie Dushko as Cathy. The two have been dating for — wait for it — five years.

Originally from St. Petersburg, Gervais met Dushko, from Toronto, when they were both theater students at the Boston Conservatory. After graduation, they stayed together and lived in Chicago, New York, and other cities, separately and together.

When Studio Grand Central debuted last fall, owner Ward Smith hired the back-to-town Gervais as house manager. He’s been intern for every show, every performance, since then.

The last five years seemed like a great opportunity to perform on stage with the love of his life, whose major digs are in Canada.

Dushko is due back in New York next month, as a show she wrote is in development there. “Things kind of picked up speed in the last two months, in terms of traction in my writing career as well,” she says.

“But Anthony said ‘I want to do this show, and I want to do it with you’ and I said ‘Well, there’s no one else I want to do this show with either.’ And I also get a beach vacation out of it? Why not?

The Jamie-and-Cathy story arc — “two ships passing through the night,” as Dushko calls it — is not what audiences are used to. But over the next two decades The last five years first appeared, it has become a favorite of community and regional theaters nationwide.

Gervais and Dushko put their own spin on the material.

“We haven’t changed anything in the text,” explains Gervais. “We haven’t changed anything in the order. I think what we do with our staging makes it clearer what memory we are in and where we are on their journey. I would like to think that we enhance and bring new life to music.

Dushko adds: “The non-linear structure of the piece is representative of memory and how we experience our own memories.

“Rather than just taking two separate timelines, we decided to kind of live in the world of memory. I’m present on stage most of the time, taking Cathy’s perspective – inspired by soliloquies and controlling the public.

“Rather than confuse the two timelines, we let them live and breathe together.”

Tickets for The last five years are here.

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